IRVING -- Wade Phillips is still an employee of the Dallas Cowboys, not because anybody believes he is the right coach for the job, rather because he is seen as the only hope for the defense.
Don’t take my word for this -- listen to Owner Jones.
I asked him after Sunday’s 13-9 victory against Tampa Bay if a loss would have led to Coach Wade being fired.
“No, not at all, that is why I was so emphatic when asked about it last week,” he said. “Our best chance to have the team that we want to have … ”
He paused for a long time then finished his sentence.
“There is nobody in this country I’d rather have technically making the decision and supervising our defense. It would be madness to have him not here for that.”
And on a Sunday when Coach Wade absolutely, positively needed his defense to save his coaching butt, his Phillips 3-4 came through big time with a shutdown performance. Tampa finished with 48 yards rushing and a bunch of field goals.
And Owner Jones gave all credit, as well as a game ball, to Coach Wade for this display.
Of course, as a Cowboy insider noted, what was The Phillips 3-4 all last season somehow became The Stewart 3-4 during recent struggles.
How fair is that?
Sunday, of course, was The Phillips 3-4 again. Or so we were told.
Owner Jones flatly denied any ultimatum had been issued to Coach Wade to take back play calling duties or become more involved. And he said defensive coordinator Brian Stewart had not been fired from his position.
Of course, Coach Wade did choose this week to announce “I make the direct calls and he backs me up.” Why didn’t he say that last week when the spit was hitting the fan and flying back on Stewart?
Owner Jones danced and danced and danced around this idea that somehow Coach Wade had become more involved this week, flying in the face of talk of that he had only been to a single meeting.
“He has recognized from the beginning and recognized this week that the need for what he brings to the table,” Owner Jones said.
We had heard all week how Coach Wade is going to call plays, how Coach Wade is taking over the defense, how Owner Jones had demanded this change and how this defense was going to be totally different as a result.
So was it different? Or the same?
“It was the same,” said Cowboys linebacker Bradie James, who it should be noted has his helmet wired into headphone chatter.
Nor was this just a Cowboy player covering for his guy. Bucs coaches and players echoed this sentiment, saying what they saw on the field was not too, too varied from what film study had showed.
So why did they suddenly look like a real defense?
“It doesn’t matter who calls the plays,” James said. “It’s a matter of us executing the plays that are called.”
And what if they struggle next week in huge game in NYC? Whose butt is on the line then? Does this again become The Stewart 3-4? Or will this be on Coach Wade?
A lot depends which defense shows up.
While I fret about just how serious this rib cartilage injury to Jason Witten really is, let’s chow down on another helping of Monday Morning Musings:
1. Say what you will about Brad Johnson, and a lot was said last week, not much nice … but he outplayed Jeff Garcia. Badly.
And Brad Johnson hardly needed a good day to do so, amassing just 13 points and 172 yards of total offense in the victory. What he did not do, though, was throw interceptions, fumble when sacked, or do all of the other stupid stuff he did a week ago.
In other words, he wasn’t as bad as Garcia.
And kudos to him because in this game, not bad was good enough.
2. Cowboys QB Tony Romo had a huge smile on his face and pumped his fist as he walked to his car after Sunday’s victory.
He understood better than anybody how must-win this game was for realistic Cowboy playoff chances. And he knows now, no matter what happens Sunday against the Giants, he is not coming back to a futile situation after the bye.
3. OK, so The Jimster has dismissed returning to Dallas for coaching duties. How about looking into him holding a two-day “Clean It Up” Clinic?
Because Jimmy Johnson nailed what has haunted your Cowboys with his “they are a mess, a sloppy, sloppy mess and they should have been working on fundamentals in training camp” mini-rant during the FOX pregame show.
And we had evidence even Sunday, in a victory.
We had another Flo false start and DeMarcus Ware had three offsides penalties, two which extended drives for Tampa Bay. This did not beat them Sunday but will eventually if not cleaned up.
4. Witten has to be hurt pretty badly, like possibly-miss-the-Giants-game-bad.
What we know for sure is -- had it been humanly possible to play, Jason Witten would have played. He played through a partially separated shoulder already this season, taking a shot at halftime and finishing the game.
He tried again Sunday.
After taking a painful shot to his ribs, Witten went for a numbing shot and tried to return. He was in too much pain. He was not able to finish the game and there is some fear that we are talking cartilage which would make playing in NYC tough as well.
5. Wait, what happened to T.O. having to have a big game for this Cowboys team to have a chance?
T.O.’s line: Five catches, 33 yards.
Result: Cowboy win.
6. A big hat tip has to go to Cowboys chief scout Tom Ciscowski after Sunday’s victory.
He had first and fifth round draft picks manning both corner spots on the final drive. He also had Alan Ball, a seventh-round pick from 2007, back in that secondary. All were pretty good, too, which had Ciscowski smiling big afterward.
“My heart was in my stomach there for a while,” he said. “But they did good. They did really good.”
And so did you.
7. Stayed late to watch Giants-Steelers and, well, be afraid. Be very afraid.
The Giants are tough, never-quit, never-give-up good.
They racked up almost 120 yards of offense in the fourth quarter against the best defense in the NFL. And the Cowboys are going to have to stop them without Terence Newman, without Pacman, and possibly without Anthony Henry (thigh contusion).
Which is to say nothing of the fact Brad Johnson has a very good chance of serious bodily injury, relying on his line to try to stop this Giants defensive front.
8. “If you had a defense that needed any one individual, Wade Phillips is who you’d go get in the NFL.”
This was Owner Jones talking about his coach.
The problem is he has a great defensive coordinator miscast as his head coach. And in the playoffs, you need a great head coach as well.
9. Your homework assignment was to answer this simple question: Should Coach Wade be fired?
We here at LBOH headquarters were frankly floored to be inundated with emails from Birdsboro, Pa. to Toronto to St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin to Kibbutz Ketura, Israel to Mexico to LA to Hautvillers, France. And proving we have more in common than we don’t, almost everybody, except one e-mail, said fire Coach Wade.
In no particular order, as we do every week, we present my favorite responses:
David Porter, an American pastor working in France and admittedly “crying about the Cowboys” writes “what’s at issue isn’t screaming and cussing but leadership. (Tony) Dungy projects it as Tom Landry did and Jimmy Johnson. What Wade needs is not to scream but to lead” while Randy Mosier of Keller notes “Wade Phillips is lucky to even be in football to begin with. Had it not been for his daddy Bum giving him a job as an assistant on the Oilers’ staff in the ‘70s, Wade would be running a little café in some small south Texas town.”
Rafael Gomez of Brownsville brings up a good point of “why would he be fired? He is doing a great job … which is to be Jerry’s lame puppet” and Ken Sitler of Papillion, Nebraska brings the snark with “YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, MAYBE … why the maybe? Because a bye week is a better time to can him.”
My favorite comes from Bob P. of Houston who was also the lone, strong dissenting voice, noting “as a lifelong Giants’ fan, I think Jerry should keep Wade for several years!!!!”
10. Your turn: Corner turned? Or were the Bucs just bad? Please remember to include your name and location for credit purposes. I am all about credit.